By Mark Hallum
The New York Department of State held hearings Sept. 14-15 to determine the need to re-establish cease-and-desist zones in Queens to protect residents from real estate brokers and salespeople whose tactics are perceived as overly aggressive.
These sales strategies often target the elderly and pressure homeowners to sell their properties at below market rate by telling them property values will drop. A cease-and-desist zone would prevent this by keeping a list of homeowners who have formally elected to stop receiving fliers, phone calls and other real estate solicitations.
According to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), a cease-and-desist zone existed in northeast Queens from 1989 to 2014. Once this expired, the solicitations began again. Residents testified at the hearing that letters, fliers, phone calls and even door-to-door salesmen are commonplace in various neighborhoods.
“The law states that once a cease-and-desist zone is created it is still the option of the property owner to voluntarily decide whether or not they want to continue to receive these solicitations or whether they choose not to receive such solicitations. I believe this is straightforward and recognizes the rights of both the real estate professional and the homeowner and balances both of their interests in engaging in their profession and protecting their right to privacy” Avella said.
Last week’s hearings were tame in contrast to a previous hearing in April, which Avella said was overrun with real estate brokers, agents and salespeople posing as residents against cease-and-desist zones. Of the 38 people who testified, 11 were non-realtors, all of whom described real estate solicitation to be extreme, Avella said in a news release. One of the residents giving testimony against cease-and-desist was a former president of the Long Island Board of Realtors, but Avella said she testified as one of his own constituents.
“Many of the real estate agents who spoke last night (in April) had little to no understanding about what they were commenting on.” Avella said. “They were simply there because they were asked to and it was clear that mob mentality allowed no room for clarity. Ironically, some even suggested that rather than a blanket ban on solicitation, we allow homeowners to put their address on an opt-out list. Well, I suppose I need to thank them for their unintentional support because that’s exactly what cease-and-desist zones do.”
State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) and Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) said constituents in their district have experienced aggressive sales tactics from brokers.
“All too often, my constituents face tactics that involve aggressive and continuous solicitations in the form of unwanted calls, visits and mailings from real estate brokers and salespersons” said Weprin.
“Seniors are frequently targeted and at times pushed into selling their homes. Residents should have the right to simply state that they are not interested in selling their homes without having to deal with repeat solicitation,” Grodenchik said.
Written testimony can be submitted to the Department of State until Sept. 30 for residents who did not have the opportunity to attend the hearings.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall